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Marines land helicopters in Playland show

The Journal News

Original Article »

May 30, 2011

After weeks of hearing about the daring helicopter mission that killed Osama bin Laden, thousands at Playland Amusement Park got to see Sunday what it might have looked like.

Two Marine transport helicopters — a CH-46 and an MV-22 Osprey — descended on a grass field between the amusement park and Long Island Sound. A stream of real, live Marines jumped off the copters, ran toward a crowd of onlookers, threw themselves on the ground and pointed their weapons at the thrilled "enemy combatants."

Then they got up, removed their helmets and posed for pictures with little kids.

Sunday was Veterans and Service Member Appreciation Day at Playland, drawing large numbers of veterans for all-out picnics and barbecues. The highlights of the day were a performance by the West Point Concert Band and the search-and-rescue performance by members of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines Regiment.

"It is impressive," said G.E. Williams, 62, of White Plains, a retired lieutenant commander and chaplain for the U.S. Navy. "You can see what Marines and other members of the armed forces do, often under fire. It exposes young people to the military. Maybe some will consider serving their country in uniform."

Williams — who barked out "Navy!" when a fellow vet walked by — said that many Americans need to re-learn what Memorial Day is all about.

"I'm appalled that people think it's a three-day weekend to get sales from retail establishments," he said.

On a steamy, August-like spring day when the amusement park was absolutely jammed, those who watched the helicopter exhibit and then stayed around were only too happy to chat with the Marines and express their gratitude.

A few hundred people waited in line to walk into the bellies of the copters and see the dark, confined quarters where Marines wait as they head for dangerous missions.

"Absolutely fantastic," said Philip Cicchiello of Rye, after he and his boys, Ryan, 13, and Jack, 11, passed through the helicopters and talked with Marines. "These are the people who step up for us. It's cramped and uncomfortable in there — makes you appreciate what they sacrifice."


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